Heat and Ash Melt Alaska Volcano's Snowy Blanket

Veniamanof volcano
A Landsat 8 image of Alaska's ash-covered Veniamanof Volcano on July 25, 2013. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Summer sun and heat, combined with a coating of ash from seven weeks of continuous eruption, have revealed the rocky summit of Alaska's Veniamanof volcano. A Landsat 8 image snapped July 25 shows the volcano's caldera rim and Cone Glacier. The caldera is a giant crater formed during a gut-busting eruption about 3,700 years ago, which emptied out and collapsed Veniamanof's magma chamber. Cone Glacier is one of several summit glaciers snaking down the slopes of the volcano, one of the tallest (8,225 feet, or 2,507 meters) in the Aleutian Range.

Three plumes of volcanic gas rise from a 1,000-foot-high (300 m) cinder cone at Veniamanof's summit in the latest Landsat 8 image of the volcano, NASA's Earth Observatory reports. Ash cloaks snow and ice at the summit crater. Though the volcano has erupted steadily since it rumbled to life on June 13, much less ash was visible in an earlier Landsat 8 image captured on July 9. Freshly fallen snow likely buried the volcanic debris, the Earth Observatory said. But late July brought unusually warm weather to southern Alaska, which combined with the heat-absorbing dark ash to melt the snow. On Aug. 2, Anchorage set a record for 15 days of 70 degree Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) or higher temperatures in a row.

A Landsat 8 image of Alaska's snow-covered Veniamanof Volcano on July 9, 2013. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Read more: NASA Earth Observatory

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Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.